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Egunkaria 5 urte.png

Egunkaria (Basque for The Daily) for thirteen years was the only fully Basque language newspaper in circulation until it was closed down on 20 February 2003 by the Spanish authorities due to allegations of an illegal association with ETA, the armed Basque separatist group. After seven years, on 15 April 2010 the defendants were acquitted on all charges related to ties to ETA. The issue of damages for the closure of the newspaper (which no longer operates) remains open, as well as the alleged torture of the members of the newspaper's executive board during detention.

History and profile[edit]

Egunkaria was established in 1990 as the only Basque-language daily newspaper in the Basque Country (there had already been bilingual newspapers and monolingual weeklies). The founders initially expected, when launched in 1990, to reach a circulation of 8,000 to 15,000 copies and 40,000 potential readers,[1] a goal later achieved,[2] later growing into a widely respected publication[citation needed] as well as a meeting point for the Basque speaking community.[2] The paper was sold in both the French and Spanish parts of the Basque Country[3] and its revenue from sales and advertising was complemented by subsidies from the Basque regional government.

Police operation and closure[edit]

Footage of the demonstration to denounce the raid and closure of the newspaper (San Sebastián)
Cartoon against the closure of Egunkaria

Closure in police operation[edit]

On 20 February 2003, the Spanish Civil Guard on orders from Juan del Olmo – a Spanish judge in the Audiencia Nacional – raided the newspaper's offices, seized documents and computers, and froze the newspaper's assets. In addition, ten individuals who were or had been members of staff were arrested in dawn raids and detained. The operation was launched under the political-juridical umbrella "Everything is ETA" implemented by the Spanish Conservatives in office. According to the incumbent Spanish Minister of Interior Ángel Acebes, "the closure aims at defending the freedom of expression and thinking in their language". Minister of Justice José María Michavila labelled the newspaper "an instrument for terrorist action".[4]

In December 2004, Iñaki Uria, Joan Mari Torrealdai, Txema Auzmendi, Xabier Alegria, Pello Zubira, Xabier Oleaga, and Martxelo Otamendi were arrested for forming an "illegal association" at the time of Egunkaria's establishment, and for "membership of, or collaboration with, ETA". Following their detention, the daily director Martxelo Otamendi denounced soon on that he had been subjected to torture in custody. Aznar's government refused to launch an investigation, instead initiating prosecution against Egunkaria's director, claiming that by denouncing torture he was allegedly "collaborating with ETA". The lawsuit against Otamendi was then filed by the Secretary Deputy of Interior María Dolores de Cospedal; the lawsuit stalled soon after.[5]

All detainees were later cleared of all charges and released. The newspaper was effectively forced into liquidation as its assets were sold off by court-appointed administrators, meaning that regardless of the outcome of the case, Egunkaria had ceased to exist. Due to irregularities and a breach of guarantees for the defendants, all decisions made since April 2007 related to the economic proceedings have been overturned.[6] The bilingual (Spanish-Basque) nationalist leftist newspaper Egin was also closed under similar circumstances.

The closure of Egunkaria resulted in grass-roots indignation,[7] with widespread criticism coming from different circles (Basque regional government, reputed writers, etc.) towards the Spanish authorities.[8][9][10] The writer Salman Rushdie denounced the closure as "appalling".[11]

Final verdict[edit]

In 2010, the final and unanimous sentence by the Criminal Court of the Audiencia Nacional states that there was no grounds to have the newspaper closed. The sentence confirms that "the narrow and erroneous view according to which everything that has to do with the Basque language and with culture in that language is promoted and/or controlled by ETA leads to an incorrect assessment of facts and figures, and to the inconsistency of the accusation." It goes on to note that the closure was an "interference with press freedom". Finally, the sentence declares that "the allegations have not proven that the defendants have the slightest relation with ETA, and this determines in itself the acquittal with all pronouncements favorable to the defendants."[12]


  1. ^ "Media and normalization of the Basque language" (PDF). UPV/EHU. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  2. ^ a b Giles Tremlett (3 March 2003). "Fourth estate – or fifth column?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  3. ^ "History of the first newspaper in "euskera": Euskaldunon Egunkaria". MIDAS. Retrieved 16 April 2009.[dead link]
  4. ^ DÍAS, CINCO (21 February 2003). "Clausuradas las sedes del diario 'Egunkaria' por su vinculación con ETA". Cinco Días (in Spanish). Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  5. ^ "15 años sin 'Egunkaria', el diario cerrado por Aznar al calor del "Todo es ETA"". Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  6. ^ "La Audiencia Nacional ordena repetir casi desde el principio el sumario económico contra 'Egunkaria'". EITB. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  7. ^ James Graff (9 March 2003). "Blaming the messenger". Time Magazine. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  8. ^ "Three Basque newspaper journalists still detained under anti-terrorism legislation". WiPC/IFEX. Archived from the original on 5 April 2006. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  9. ^ "Sobre la clausura de Euskaldunon Egunkaria". El País. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  10. ^ Elizabeth Nash (27 February 2003). "Police tortured me, Basque editor claims". The Independent. London. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  11. ^ "Exdirector de Egunkaria denuncia la situación de encarcelamiento que aún vive el consejero delegado del periódico clausurado por justicia española". Noticiasdot. Archived from the original on 9 July 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2009. Article in Spanish
  12. ^ The whole sentence of Audiencia Nacional in the Egunkaria case, 12 April 2010.

External links[edit]

  • Juicio a Egunkaria – Spanish language blog on the trial to the Basque newspaper by L. Fernández, one of its journalists.
  • Egunkaria International – English, French and Spanish language webpage about the case.